2017 in Review: Critics Cite Top Performances

Meadows talent represented in multiple “best-of” lists

Works and performances by faculty, students and alumni were recognized by seven TheaterJones critics in their “Best of 2017” year-end lists.


Margaret Putnam’s 10 favorite performances of 2017 included the October production of Les Fairies and Big Bad Wolf by Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, led by alumnus Joshua Peugh (’06). Putnam wrote, “Peugh turned Michel Fokine’s airy Les Sylphides into a very contemporary, slightly ironic and yet poetic ballet, playing on the relationship of gays and lesbians: hence the ‘fairies.’ But it was his Big Bad Wolf that announces him as a choreographer to be reckoned with.” Putnam also praised the Paul Taylor Dance Company concert in February, noting the performance of alumnus Michael Trusnovec (’96).

Cheryl Callon’s list of stand-out performances, companies and people in 2017 included the Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet production of Futurisme à Pied, a spring collaboration with Meadows SYZYGY and Percussion Ensemble musicians that she called “one of the coolest dance concerts I’ve ever been to.” Callon also cited the work of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and Joshua Peugh, noting “Festivals, commissions, and guest appearances all provide a busy season for him and the company, but he still churns out the good stuff and has a keen eye for outside talent.”

Fellow critic Katie Dravenstott’s favorite new works of 2017 included Donkey Beach by Danielle Georgiou, which featured a script by theatre alum Ruben Carrazana (’13); Meant To Be Seen by alum Emily Bernet (’16) and Taylor Rodman of Bombshell Dance Project; HALT! by alum Joshua Peugh of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance; and Chasing Home by alum Albert Drake (’15), artistic associate of Bruce Wood Dance.


Critic Martha Heimberg listed 12 outstanding local female actors and directors she would like to host at a dinner party, including alum Tina Parker (’91), citing her direction of Ironbound at Kitchen Dog Theatre, and alum Sally Vahle (’90), noting her riveting performances at Dallas Theater Center as Clytemnestra in Electra and as Doris in Miller, Mississippi.

Critic Jan Farrington cited awards she would like to give to local productions, including the “All the City’s a Stage” award to Dallas Theater Center, “both for its audience-inclusive Hair and for The Tempest, a Public Works Dallas project that pulled in a whole community of engaged and excited citizens to experience theater from the inside.” The Tempest was a collaboration with SMU Meadows and Ignite/Arts Dallas.

Critic Janice Franklin’s favorite theatre productions of 2017 included a mostly female Julius Caesar by House Party Theatre, a company founded by SMU alumni.

In reviewing developments in area theatre over the year, TheaterJones co-founder and longtime critic Mark Lowry cited alumni Jake Nice (’15) and Samantha Rios (’13), noting “Jake Nice self-produced Young Jean Lee’s We’re Gonna Die with Sammy ‘Rat’ Rios fronting a band in this song-confessional at various venues in DFW. It was so good it’s being picked up in AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Elevator Project and at Fort Worth’s Amphibian Stage Productions in 2018.” He added, “It’s great that theatermakers are finding ways of producing work when there’s not a named company involved.”

Lowry also named Associate Professor Blake Hackler as Theatermaker of the Year. He wrote, “Blake Hackler has been a force as an actor and director for years, but this year he hit it out of the park in three arenas: Actor in the title role of Richard III at Trinity Shakespeare Festival, playwright of The Necessities at Second Thought Theatre, and director of Adding Machine: A Musical at Theatre Three.”

Lowry also named Adding Machine one of the area’s top 10 productions for 2017.

In addition to his top 10, Lowry praised 20 additional plays, including Ironbound at Kitchen Dog Theater, directed by alum Tina Parker; The Necessities, written by Blake Hackler; We’re Gonna Die, produced by alum Jake Nice; and Deferred Action, co-written by Cara Mia Theatre Artistic Director David Lozano, which toured North Texas and Los Angeles thanks to support from the Meadows School’s Ignite/Arts Dallas initiative.

Scene from 2015’s Hi Betty Cha-Cha by alumnus Joshua Peugh ('06), founder and director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance